Tagged USA

Highlights of New York

Besides an overnight trip to Washington D.C. and a couple of nights in Boston, all of my four weeks in USA were spent in New York. New York is such a large city, I still feel like I only saw a portion of it during my time there. My favourite thing about the city is definitely the variety of different people you can meet on the streets, and the different shops and restaurants in every single corner. Also, navigating in New York is really easy. On Manhattan, the streets are named by numbers that increase the further north you go. Numbered avenues run from east to west. The subway is easy too, just head north with the uptown train or south with the downtown one. It’s really easy to adapt to New York. It’s strange, I had never been there, but as soon as I landed at JFK Airport, it felt like coming home.

Below are some highlights of my time in one of my favorite cities in the world.

Halloween is huge in USA and nowhere more so than New York. It was incredible to be in a city where, on one single day, almost every person you see is dressed in the most imaginative costumes. I had a blast walking the New York City Halloween Parade (and apparently almost got eaten by a vampire).
I survived camping in subzero temperatures in Harriman National Park. The massive park is located an hour's drive north of New York City. There are small huts called lean-tos that provide shelter for campers. The height of the fall foliage had already passed but the trees still had some colour in them.
I survived camping overnight in subzero temperatures at Harriman State Park. The massive park is located an hour’s drive north of New York City. There are small huts called lean-tos that provide shelter for campers. The height of the fall foliage had already passed but the trees still had some colour in them.
I skateboarded for the first time in my life. Despite falling over a couple of times, I loved cruising (or rather rolling at minimum speed...) down the streets of Brooklyn.
I skateboarded for the first time in my life. Despite falling over a couple of times, I loved cruising (or rather rolling at minimum speed…) down the streets of Brooklyn.
I found my favorite restaurant in New York! Unfortunately I didn't find it until a few days before leaving and only had time to eat there once. The macrobiotic restaurant Souen has three locations in downtown Manhattan.
I found my favorite restaurant in New York! Unfortunately I didn’t find it until a few days before leaving and only had time to eat there once. The macrobiotic restaurant Souen has three locations in downtown Manhattan.
I also ate a lot of New York pizza...
I also ate a lot of New York pizza…
I watched the sun set over New York from the Empire State Building. A visit to the 86th floor viewing platform costs $29.
I watched the sun set over New York from the Empire State Building. A visit to the 86th floor viewing platform costs $29.
I got lost at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum is so big, you could spend several days here. Like most museums in New York, entry is donation based.
I got lost at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum is so big, you could spend several days here. Like most museums in New York, entry is donation based.
Another museum on Manhattan I visited was the International Center of Photography. On Fridays between 5 pm and 8 pm it's pay-as-you-wish night! The exhibition was by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, with spectacular photos from around the world. I really recommend visiting this lesser known New York museum if you like photography.
Another museum on Manhattan I visited was the International Center of Photography. On Fridays between 5 pm and 8 pm it’s pay-as-you-wish night! The exhibition was by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, with spectacular photos from around the world. I really recommend visiting this lesser known New York museum if you like photography.
Besides the two museums on Manhattan, I also visited the Brooklyn Museum. This donation based museum had several interesting exhibitions, such as an entire exhibition about high-heeled shoes. The best exhibition was Crossing Brooklyn, which showcased local Brooklyn artists and collectives.
Besides the two museums on Manhattan, I also visited the Brooklyn Museum. This donation based museum had several interesting exhibitions, such as an entire exhibition about high-heeled shoes. The best exhibition was Crossing Brooklyn, which showcased local artists and collectives.
The New York Neo-Futurists' show "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind" was one of the coolest things I experienced in New York! This theatre group puts on an ever changing show with the intention of performing 30 plays in 60 minutes. The audience are given a menu and they can order plays in whichever order they want. Entry is $13 plus whatever you roll on a six sided die. See it!
The New York Neo-Futurists’ show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind was one of the coolest things I experienced in New York! This theatre group puts on an ever changing show with the intention of performing 30 plays in 60 minutes. The audience are given a menu and they can order plays in whichever order they want. Entry is $13 plus whatever you roll on a six sided die. See it!
I saw my absolute favorite musician live. I've seen Ryan Adams live on three different continents and he just gets better every time. I don't know how the hell he does it - he just sits there with a guitar and has the entire audience captivated.
I saw my absolute favorite musician live. I’ve seen Ryan Adams live on three different continents and he just gets better every time. I don’t know how the hell he does it – he just sits there with a guitar and has the entire audience captivated.
I played tourist in Times Square (hey, I didn't actually enter Madame Tussaud's!). I did however manage to get a $30 ticket to see the Aladdin musical. Once again, the odds of winning the raffle for a matinée show are quite big.
I played tourist in Times Square (hey, I didn’t actually enter Madame Tussauds!). I did however manage to get a $30 ticket to see the Aladdin musical. Once again, the odds of winning the raffle for a matinée show are quite big.
I visited The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, where until the end of this year, you can see Xu Bing's large phoenix birds made out of debris. I also attended Sunday mass at another Harlem church. It was a pretty crazy three hours full of singing and preaching! Like nothing I've ever experienced before.
I visited The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, where until the end of this year, you can see Xu Bing’s large phoenix birds made out of debris. I also attended Sunday mass at another Harlem church. It was a pretty crazy three hours full of singing and preaching! Like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
I witnessed the beautiful autumn colours of Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
I witnessed the beautiful autumn colours of Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
I also returned to Central Park for a walk around the areas I hadn't seen during my first week in New York.
I also returned to Central Park for a walk around the areas I hadn’t seen during my first week in New York.
I experienced New York's holiday lights and the weather at its coldest!
I experienced New York’s holiday lights and the weather at its coldest!

Goodbye New York. I’ll miss you.

Washington D.C. overnight

Even though Washington D.C. is the capital of USA, many people (especially Americans) advised me not to go there. Washington D.C. apparently does not have the best reputation (it was called the murder capital in the 90’s due to a high rate of crime and violence). But since I was only a five hour bus ride away, I decided to make a short visit to the country’s capital. Because you never know when I’ll be back on the continent!

I used the same bus company that I traveled to Boston with, Megabus. Megabus offers cheap tickets to several cities in USA and Canada. I bought the tickets last minute, so the round trip from New York set me back $42.

Washington is mostly known for its vast array of monuments, museums, embassies and government buildings. The most important sights are located around this park called National Mall.
Washington D.C. is mostly known for its vast array of monuments, museums, embassies and government buildings. The most important sights are located around this park called the National Mall.
The Capitol, the seat of United States Congress, is situated at the eastern end of the National Mall.
The Capitol, the seat of United States Congress, is situated at the eastern end of the National Mall.
There are dozens of museums in Washington D.C. and most of them are free. My first stop was the National Gallery of Art. The museum was really big (a bit too big for my liking) with famous paintings from artist such as Monet and Rembrandt.
There are dozens of museums in Washington D.C. and most of them are free. My first stop was the National Gallery of Art. The museum was really big (a bit too big for my liking) with famous paintings from artist such as Monet and Rembrandt.

After walking around the National Gallery of Art for a couple of hours and barely seeing half of it, I checked in to my hostel, International House of Washington. One night in six bed dorm cost $22.

My hostel from outside. Many buildings further away from the National Mall area were quite run down.
My hostel from outside. Many buildings outside the National Mall area are quite run down.

In the evening I returned to the National Mall. The Smithsonian Museums close already at 5.30 pm, so I took the opportunity to look at famous buildings and monuments instead.

The WWII Memorial and Washinton Monument are reflected in the 600 m long Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
The WWII Memorial and Washinton Monument are reflected in the 600 m long Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
At the other end of the pool, a massive monument has been erected to honour Abraham Lincoln. A big statue of America's 16th presidents sit inside the monument.
At the other end of the pool, a massive monument has been erected to honour Abraham Lincoln. A big statue of America’s 16th president sits inside the monument.
On my second day, I visited the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden, prior to heading to the Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian Museums don't open until 10 am so I had a chance to take in the fresh autumn air.
On my second day, I visited the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden, prior to heading to the Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian Museums don’t open until 10 am so I had a chance to take in the fresh autumn air.
The Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the USA. I'm not surprised! The exhibits are interactive and very captivating.
The Air and Space Museum is the most visited museum in the USA. I’m not surprised! The exhibits are interactive and very captivating.
You can even touch a piece of the moon!
You can even touch a piece of the moon!
Besides interesting items on display - such as space food - there is a very nice planetarium that you can visit for a fee. Entry to the museum itself is free.
In addition to interesting items on display – such as space food – there is a very nice planetarium that you can visit for a fee. Entry to the museum itself is free.
Besides exhibitions about space, many rooms explain the mechanics and inventions of flying.
Besides exhibitions about space, there are many rooms dedicated to explaining the mechanics and inventions of flying.

I was going to visit some other museum as well, but the Air and Space museum was so interesting that I spent four hours there! So unfortunately I didn’t have time for any more sightseeing in Washington D.C. before my bus back to New York was leaving.

Washington D.C. is a good city for anyone who likes museums! In addition to the 19 free Smithsonian Museums, there are several other museums dedicated to topics such as news or espionage. The museums are really big, so I would recommend focusing on one or two per day.

A short visit to Boston

I love not having set plans while traveling. This way I can pick up tips on where to go and what to do from locals as well as other travelers. While travelling through East-Central Europe I met so many people who recommended Boston to me so I decided to spend a few days there. Boston is one of the oldest cities in USA and the site of many important events in American history.

The bus company Megabus operates between dozens of large cities in USA. If you’re lucky and buy your ticket far in advance, you can pay as little as $1 for a one way bus ticket. I bought my tickets a couple of weeks ahead of time and found tickets from New York to Boston for $5 one way. Buying bus tickets in advance does limit your travels, in case you want to stay somewhere longer. But an unused $5 bus ticket anyone can live with. I ended up leaving Boston earlier than planned and only payed $12 for my new bus ticket anyway. The trip from New York to Boston takes five hours (unless there is an accident on the road and your bus stands still on the highway for three hours…).

I couchsurfed in Somerville, an area North West of the city centre. Once again, I had a great couchsurfing experience. Not only did I meet my host, her friend, her roommate and three cool cats (two of them named after Finns), but there were two other couchsurfers staying at the apartment, so there was always someone to talk to.

On my first day in Boston, I visited the annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, where I basically got a free lunch from all the samples they were giving out. Afterwards my host took me around Boston and in the evening she cooked a tasty seafood stew.

I walked around the serene Park with my host Sarah and one of the other couchsurfers with her.
I walked around the serene Boston Public Garden with my host Sarah and one of the other couchsurfers staying with her.
The River runs between downtown Boston and Cambridge.
The Charles River runs between Cambridge and downtown Boston.
It's easy to spot all the major sights of Boston - just follow the Freedom Trail, marked with a red line on the ground.
It’s easy to spot all the major sights of Boston, such as the Old State House – just follow the Freedom Trail,  a 4 km path marked with a red line on the ground.
Faneuil Hall is one of the most important sights on the trail.
Faneuil Hall is one of the most important buildings on the trail. It is also one of the most visited buildings in USA.
The courtyard and entrance to Old City Hall, also located along the Freedom Trail.
The courtyard and entrance to Old City Hall, also located along the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail continues to Copp's Hill, where several notable Bostonians are buried.
The Freedom Trail continues to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, where several notable Bostonians are buried.
The Freedom Trail ends at the Bunker Hill Monument.
The Freedom Trail ends at the Bunker Hill Monument.
There are some modern sights in Boston, too.
Besides historical buildings along the Freedom Trail, there are some modern sights in Boston, too.

Boston is a big university city, with dozens of universities around town. I visited Harvard and participated in the free tour led by a Harvard student.

The statue of John Harvard, who was the biggest benefactor of the university. Rubbing his shoe alledgedly gets you, or someone you know, accepted to Harvard.
The statue of John Harvard, who was the biggest benefactor of the university. Rubbing his shoe allegedly gets you, or someone you know, accepted into Harvard.
Most buildings are out of bounds for non-students, but we did get a chance to visit this beautiful hall.
Most buildings are out of bounds for non-students, but we did get a chance to visit this beautiful hall.
 One time, I took the wrong turn while getting out from the subway station and stumbled upon this restaurant. I'm glad I did! Life Alive is probably the best restaurant I've eaten at during this trip. After discovering this place, I didn't need to eat anywhere else.
One time, I took the wrong turn while getting out from the subway station and stumbled upon this restaurant. I’m glad I did! Life Alive is probably the best restaurant I’ve eaten at during this entire trip. After discovering this place, I didn’t need to eat anywhere else.

As Boston is such an old city, I think it’s the best starting point for a better understanding of American history.

New York with friends

When my friend Ina and I were in our early twenties, we made a pact: we would visit New York together before we turn thirty. This year, after many years of dreaming about it, we finally followed through with our pact. Ina’s boyfriend Daniel and my sister Pia joined us for an exciting week in the Big Apple. We booked our accommodation through AirBNB. Eight nights in a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn cost 1500 €.

This blog post is hard to write because New York makes me speechless. I can’t count the times I’ve been moved, delighted and amazed by this place. New York is hands down the most incredible city I have ever visited. I wish I’d come sooner.

I loved living in Brooklyn. We lived on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Not only did this area have a cozy neighborhood feel to it, the views to Manhattan were incredible.
I loved living in Brooklyn – we stayed in an apartment on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Not only did this area have a cozy neighborhood feel to it, the views to Manhattan were incredible.
Both day and night.
Both day and night.
I met John on my first day in New York and he instantly became part of our group. It was amazing to have a local show us the best parks to have a picnic and the best restaurants to eat pizza.
I met John in Brooklyn on my first day in New York and he instantly became part of our group. It was amazing to have a local show us the best parks to spend sunny afternoons and the best restaurants to eat pizza.

John also introduced me to Whole Foods. Oh. My. Goodness. I could write an entire blog post about this supermarket chain. Best store I have ever visited. Whole Foods has an unbelievably large variety of fresh food, the only problem is knowing when to stop filling your basket…

Whole Foods picnic at Washington Square Park.
Whole Foods picnic at Washington Square Park. At Whole Foods, you can fill boxes with whatever you want from the pay-by-weight deli and even grind your own peanut butter!
Besides Washington Square Park, we obviously visited Central Park, an important New York landmark.
Besides Washington Square Park, we obviously visited Central Park, an important New York landmark.
At Central Park, you can rent row boats for $15 / hour.
At Central Park, you can rent row boats for $15 / hour.
Central Park is also the optimal place to practice some acro yoga!
Central Park is also the optimal place to practice some acro yoga!
You can see squirrels running around in all New York parks. This fellow was hanging out at Union Square.
You can see squirrels running around in all New York parks. This fellow was hanging out at Union Square.
Every Saturday, a large Farmers Market is organized on Union Square.
Every Saturday, a large Farmers Market is organized at Union Square.
The colourful vegetables are a delight for the senses.
The colourful vegetables are a delight for the senses.
At Union Square, we were lucky enough to spot street performer / crazy person Matthew Silver! I'm so excited we saw him. This guy is legendary.
At Union Square, we were lucky enough to spot street performer Matthew Silver! I’m so excited we saw him. The man is a living legend.
Matthew Silver wants to be my child!
Matthew Silver calling me his mummy!
This guy could be seen walking around both Union Square and Washington Square Park. My inner hippie was extremely disappointed when he burst out: "The hug is free but the photo is by donation".
This guy could be seen walking around both Union Square and Washington Square Park. My inner hippie was extremely disappointed when he burst out: “The hug is free but the photo is by donation”.

New York is a massive city, and especially popular among tourists, so it’s easy to find a free walking tour. As the city is so big, the tours are usually built around a theme or a certain part of town. We participated in the SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown tour organized by Free Tours by Foot.

The tour started in Soho.
The tour started in SoHo.
On Manhattan, you can find a piece of Southern Europe in Little Italy.
You can find a piece of Southern Europe in Little Italy.
Then, just walk one block further, and you're in Chinatown!
Then, just walk a block further, and you’re in Chinatown!

Our tour guide recommended that we enter the Broadway Lottery. Many theatres organize raffles, where approximately 30 tickets are sold at a fraction of their normal cost. At the recommendation of our tour guide, we entered the raffle for the Wednesday matinée show of Kinky Boots. Usually, there are less people than tickets so basically everybody wins!  Tickets usually cost closer to $200, but by winning the raffle, you can purchase tickets for $37. Kinky Boots was one of the highlights of our week in New York – it was such a funny, spectacular and over-the-top show!

The designer in me really appreciates the beautiful signage in the New York subway stations.
The subway system in New York is huge with trains running 24/7. The best way to get around town is to buy an unlimited 7-day pass for $30.
Musician
At most of the subway stops you can see talented musicians entertaining commuters. Here’s a one man orchestra playing at the Union Square subway station.
Grand Central Station
Besides seeing many subway stations, we visited Grand Central Station, just to take in the atmosphere and marvel at the beautiful architecture.
Another gorgeous building that's free to visit is the New York Public Library.
Another gorgeous building that’s free to visit is the New York Public Library.
Everyday there is a free tour that goes around to many of the beautiful rooms.
Everyday there is a free tour that goes around the library to many of its beautiful rooms.
This man stood on the steps of the Public Library all day long.
This man stood on the steps of the Public Library all day long.
I love people watching in New York. Every single person looks different. I just feel like going up to everybody and asking them to tell me their life story.
I love people watching in New York. Every single person looks different. I just feel like going up to everybody and asking them to tell me their life story.
People watching is especially fun in Williamsburg, the hub of hipsters and Mac computers.
People watching is especially fun in Williamsburg, the hub of hipsters with Mac computers.
Every Sunday, the Brooklyn Smorgasburg is organized at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5. This event brings together hundreds of different vendors, and you can buy all kinds of food from the stalls.
Every Sunday, the Brooklyn Smorgasburg is organized at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5. This event brings together hundreds of different vendors, and you can buy all kinds of food from the stalls.
At Pier 5, you have good views to Manhattan while eating your snack.
At Pier 5, you have good views to Manhattan while eating your snack.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the bridges connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. The walk over the bridge takes about 25 minutes.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the bridges connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. The walk over the bridge takes about 25 minutes.
WTC
One World Trade Center is the tallest building in USA. It stands on the site of the original World Trade Center destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Memorial
A memorial has been created where the Twin Towers used to stand. Visiting the memorial was so much tougher than I thought. Seeing these names and realising that they were someone’s husband, mother, brother, child, had me in tears.
There are tons of museums in New York and most of them are donation based, so it's up to you to decide how much you want to support the arts. We only had time to visit the American Museum of Natural History. It was the greatest museum I have ever visited. Besides interesting exhibitions, it was fun to spot characters from the movie Night at the Museum!
There are tons of museums in New York and most of them are donation based, so it’s up to you to decide how much you want to support the arts. We only had time to visit the American Museum of Natural History. It was the best museum I have ever visited and it’s so big, I feel like you could spend days there. Besides interesting exhibitions, it was fun to spot characters from the movie Night at the Museum!
Halloween was just around the corner and you could see pumpkins and decorations around the city.
Halloween was just around the corner and you could see pumpkins and decorations around the city.
Times Square is a busy (and very touristy) area with spectacular lights that will blind you - especially at night.
Times Square is a busy (and very touristy) area with spectacular lights that will blind you – especially at night.
For a bit calmer evening, walk The High Line - a 2 km long park built on an old railway elevated above the city.
For a much calmer evening, walk The High Line – a 2 km long park built on an old railway elevated above the city.
From the very South end of Manhattan, you can catch a free ferry to Staten Island.
From the very South end of Manhattan, you can catch a free ferry to Staten Island.
There isn't much to see on the island, but the ferry ride provides great views to the Statue of Liberty.
There isn’t much to see on the island, but the ferry ride provides great views to the Statue of Liberty.
New York is everything I ever imagined and a hundred times more. I had planned to travel around during the four weeks I'm spending in USA, but I think magical New York deserves the majority of my time here.
New York is everything I ever imagined and a hundred times more. I had planned to travel around during the four weeks I’m spending in USA, but I think magical New York deserves the majority of my time here.
Thanks a lot everyone!
Thanks for a fun week everyone!